The Truth About Innovation: Part One

Natural ingredients come from everywhere, and many of them have multiple applications that meet a broad assortment of consumer needs. Every year there are a handful of popular ingredients that dominate new product development, and each year the list changes slightly. Natural ingredients are rather like fashion, and as they say on TV’s Project Runway, one day you are in and the next you are out. A Google search of the “New Natural Personal Care Ingredients” revealed a bunch of patented and branded ingredient combinations addressing existing needs as well as lists of ingredients to avoid, and the most popular ingredients. When the word “new” was replaced by “innovative” the list was largely the same.

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But just because some of these ingredients are relatively new, does that make them “innovative”?  It seems that this word has been thrown around quite a bit and has lost much of its meaning, similar to the way that social media, and Facebook in particular, has somewhat diluted the word “friend”.  And this begs the question, “Are ingredients truly innovative or is this just a bedtime story that product developers tell themselves so that they have a better reason to rise and shine in the morning?” It may very well be true that just because a new botanical or ingredient blend is new or popular, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is innovative in any real sense. Let us explore this rather controversial assertion further.

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The term “innovation” has been used to describe all kinds of underwhelming product developments, and the colloquial understanding of the term is that it means “new”. I think we can all agree that the telegraph, automobile, light bulb, radio, television, computer and smartphone were all ground-breaking innovations, but what about each iteration of the iPhone? Is a new emollient truly innovative? A new natural preservative? A new, naturally-derived active ingredient? What do you think?

To Be Continued in "Part Two"